This is the second of a series of posts about using crowdfunding to sell/market your books. The first post/overview is here.
Kickstarter is the 800-pound gorilla of crowdfunding. To date, according to them, they’ve funded a total of $1.9 BILLION to over 90,000 projects. They have 9.2 million plus backers for those projects, too, so that tells you they’re a serious force. Kickstarter’s statistics say they fund somewhere around 15% of their projects, which is not too bad, better than one in eight. The best chances are in music and art projects, which fund north of 20%.
Indiegogo is a bit smaller than Kickstarter, but they also have some features that make them more hospitable to writers, especially those on the lunatic fringes of genre. Indiegogo will take your project, almost certainly (don’t try a project to manufacture explosives, but writing erotic horror, for instance, won’t faze them), while Kickstarter is more selective (and some say unnecessarily restrictive). Also, Indiegogo will let you keep the money if you don’t hit your goal (if you choose flexible funding). That can be critical. We would all love to get $10,000 up front to write that novel, but we also know that if someone offered us $4700 instead, we would almost certainly say yes.
- You set up the project, for instance “The Great American Novel” . It’s free to do this.
- You set the funding goal. Let’s say we’re going after $10k. That would be a decent advance for a new writer.
- You set the timeframe for completion. On Kickstarter, this is a hard deadline, and if you don’t hit the above funding target, you get nothing. On Indiegogo (flexible funding), you can keep the dough you raise (less between 4 and 9%). Let’s choose 60 days.
- You set reward levels. If someone gives you $1, they get a kind mention at the back of your book (for instance). If your rich Uncle Harry gives you $10,000, he gets to be the hero of the book. Stuff like that.
- You put the project up and tell everyone you know about it. This is your job, and you’ll have to work hard at it if you want to get the project funded.
- You fund the project and write the book, and sell it yourself on Amazon, Smashwords, and everywhere else.
- If you overfund, that is, take in more in pledges than your target, you still keep the extra dough.
Downside: It’s very hard to make this work. Everyone wants to write a novel, and no one wants to quit their day job to do it. Statistics are a little vague, but it’s probable that book projects fund less than 10% of the time.
The problem is that books aren’t sexy. What funds on Indiegogo, et al, are projects that have either a “duh” factor or a “wow” factor. For instance, a project to fund the making of potato salad raised $55,000. One of my favorites, Reading Rainbow, was massively successful. Games generally do very well; it’s the golden age of board games (and, really, all games).
Books, on the other hand, are words on the page. They aren’t particularly visual. They don’t move. All the action happens in your head. This means that they are very hard to sell in this format, especially because (in our example above) they haven’t been written yet. There is literally nothing to sell but anticipation. If you’re Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer, you can drum this anticipation up with your massive backlist. If you’re Cj Lehi or Tiana Smith, not so much. You need to up your game to win.
Tips: But there are ways to do this. Some suggestions:
- Get a beloved Star Trek character to pitch your project. Like, oh, Geordi LaForge. Just to pick someone at random.
- Make a trailer, just like you would for a movie. Video sells.
- Leverage the rewards. If you can’t offer a lot in terms of your literary backlist, offer benefits, even some that don’t have to do with the book. Most of us have other jobs. There’s no real restriction on the rewards, so get creative.
- Cross-promote. Get artists to draw you concept pieces to illustrate how awesome your book will be. Good exposure for them, and for you. Plus you’re leveraging their followership.
- Write really well. You’ll want to put up some teasers about the book’s content, and if your writing is compelling, nothing will sell your book better.
- Do something outrageous. Here’s one of my favorite success stories on Kickstarter: Matt Forbeck’s 12 for ’12, where he raised money to write twelve novels in twelve months. He put the projects up one at a time, and used the gravity slingshot to propel his pitches forward. Something like this, or writing a novel entirely while being driven coast-to-coast on Route 50, for instance, might have a chance.
If you have a large social media presence, good business contacts, and a robust group of fans, you could make it work. It’s a longshot, but no longer than blasting through the slush pile at Penguin House*.
*Yes, I know it’s not called that. I just like this name better.